Note: I am not a medical doctor and this post is not meant to give medical advice. You should always consult with a medical professional should you have concerns about your health.
I look fine. I feel much better that I did 4 weeks ago. This month I had a baby and a medical scare – which may have been much scarier if I hadn’t read my friend Sarah’s blog post about preeclampsia the month before. I am sharing my story because in reading and remembering Sarah’s story, my story has a happy ending thus far. I hope all of you are healthy before and after having your babies, but I will share what happened to me so you can advocate for yourself should the following happen to you.
I had a fairly uneventful third pregnancy considering I had all day morning sickness with both of my other boys. With this pregnancy, I was sick every morning, but it was one and done. I could deal with that. I was much more physically uncomfortable this time around – tasks like putting on pants or walking a short distance often caused excruciating pain.
In my last few weeks of pregnancy, my blood pressure started creeping up – but it didn’t stay up consistently, so it didn’t seem to be a reason to worry. I’d go to a check up and have a high reading, followed by an appointment the next week with a reading on the low end. One morning I woke up with a blinding headache. Knowing this can be a sign of preeclampsia, I took my blood pressure and it was high. I called the doctor and was sent to Labor and Delivery – and by the time I got there, I was feeling disoriented and nauseated. But within an hour of being in triage, my blood pressure went down as quickly as it had spiked, and it took my symptoms with it. Home I went.
At 39 weeks, 3 days, I was supposed to be induced given the speed at which my other two boys arrived (Little Guy delivered himself in minutes without an OB doctor even in the hospital). However, L & D was packed, so the induction was pushed off. That afternoon I felt “funny” so I called the doctor and was sent to L & D (did I mention I don’t feel contractions until I am literally having the baby?). When I got there, my contractions were nothing to worry about, but my blood pressure apparently was. I was induced and carefully monitored during delivery – and was ensured that once Iggy was born, my blood pressure would return to normal.
In the 36 hours in the hospital after Iggy’s birth, my blood pressure remained high, but I was just watched. I felt fine, so I wasn’t really worried. I was sent home and told to make an appointment with my OB in 6 weeks. Upon getting home, my blood pressure remained high and continued to creep up. I remembered Sarah, a friend and blogger at Finnegan and the Hughes, had experienced severe high blood pressure after the birth of her second child, and I decided to reach out to her to ask if what I was experiencing was normal or if it was something that I should be concerned about.
Sarah scolded me (thanks, Sarah!) and ordered me to call my doctor immediately. I called and was put on blood pressure medication (Labatelol) that night. My doctor said my postpartum blood pressure issues were a surprise because (1) I had no history of blood pressure issues, (2) this was not my first child, and (3) it was happening AFTER delivery. Apparently, I am one of those lucky people to defy all sense of normal when it comes to postpartum hypertension. Fortunately for me, Sarah was one of these outliers too and had shared her story. Otherwise, I would have attributed the dull headache and high blood pressure to the stress and sleeplessness of being a new mom. With the medication now running through my system, I thought I was on the road to recovery.
Two nights later, my blood pressure was up to 186/116 and after getting up to change Iggy, I was so cold that I was convulsing on the floor, teeth chattering, unable to stand. Frightened, I called the doctor again and was sent to the ER to be monitored, but I knew enough about pregnancy-related blood pressure to know that readings this high were not good. And as much as I did not want to be in the hospital, I also had no interest in having a stroke. As the attending doctor fiddled with a cocktail of medications promising me I could go home if I got to 140/89, I watched the blood pressure readings as if I was waiting for the lottery numbers to display on late night TV – getting the numbers down to a point where I could go home was like winning the lottery in my mind. After adding Procardia, my numbers got close enough to acceptable to send me home (140’s/low 90’s).
Note: Procardia can give you a wicked, wicked headache, so for the first few days of this miracle drug, I felt like I had been hit in the head with a brick. Yet, with the two medications and a low-stress home routine, I was able to maintain an acceptable blood pressure level within a week. At four weeks postpartum, my OB tried to wean me off of the Procardia – that was a failed experiment, as within 24 hours I was back to 164/105.
At this point my general practitioner has taken over my care. Concerned about me taking Procardia while nursing, she has decided to work with finding the right dose of Labatelol to control my high blood pressure. We haven’t found the correct dosage quite yet, but I trust her implicitly. I am doing what I can to naturally lower my blood pressure while allowing the medication to do its job. While I am frustrated with the continuous struggle in getting my postpartum high blood pressure under control – I feel fortunate that I haven’t had any other complications as a result of this setback in my health.
I have had to cut back to a half load this semester to reduce stress and other complications while I get a handle on my postpartum hypertension, but I am confident that taking this time will give my body the time it needs to reregulate itself.
I encourage you, if you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, you review the symptoms of preeclampsia, and advocate for yourself if you “just aren’t feeling right” before or after pregnancy. Just because you don’t fit the typical description for pregnancy-related blood pressure concerns, doesn’t mean you are in the clear.
Thank you Sarah for being such a good friend and making sure I didn’t just “wait and see” how my symptoms developed. I owe you a big one.